Overcrowded trains 'are a danger to passengers'

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The Independent Online

A warning about dangerous overcrowding on Britain's trains was sounded by a Labour backbencher yesterday after a Paddington-to-Swansea express travelled with nearly 600 more people than it was designed to carry.

A warning about dangerous overcrowding on Britain's trains was sounded by a Labour backbencher yesterday after a Paddington-to-Swansea express travelled with nearly 600 more people than it was designed to carry.

John Smith, the MP for Vale of Glamorgan, said the 10am train left London last Saturday with so many passengers on board the driver and guard refused to stop at stations beyond Reading, saying the combined weight and conditions would be dangerous if more people boarded.

The train's route would have passed through the Ladbroke Grove site of this month's crash, which claimed the lives of 30 people.

Mr Smith told the Commons there was no limit on the numbers of people allowed to travel on rail transport and overcrowding was a daily problem. Describing the incident, he said more than 1,000 passengers boarded the train designed to take 428 people.

"The situation was so dangerous the driver and the guard refused to stop at stations beyond Reading in case any more passengers tried to board that train.

"This kind of occurrence - dangerous overcrowding - is a daily one in my constituency amongst my commuters and I suspect many other MPs on both sides of this House have a similar problem."

He added: "There is no numerical limitation or maximum capacity for this form of public transport, unlike any other. I think it is something we should address."

Margaret Beckett, the Commons Leader, said Mr Smith should draw the problem to the attention of the current review of rail safety being carried out after the crash disaster.

She said: "I am aware that there is no limit on capacity for rail transport and I can understand your concern and the circumstances you describe.

"You will know that all aspects of rail safety are currently under review after the tragic accident on the line to Paddington.

"What I would strongly suggest to you is that you - and ... your constituents - draw this aspect of safety to the concern of those conducting that review since I suspect, as I think you do, that it may be an aspect that is sometimes overlooked."

A government source later made clear it was "not unusual" for a train to pass through a station if there was overcrowding. "But it is an operational matter and entirely up to the train companies," he said.

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